Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul has been heavily scrutinized since his public criticism of first-year referee Lauren Holtkamp on Thursday Feb. 5. Individuals have been debating whether Paul’s comments were sexist and disrespectful toward women without taking notice of some crucial factors. Holtkamp called a technical foul against Paul with 10:17 left in the third quarter of the game––he was trying to inbound the pass quickly when she came in. For questioning Holtkamp, Paul was given a technical foul, the second of four technical fouls in the third quarter against the Clippers. After getting T’d up five times, the Clippers were beyond aggravated.
After the game ended, Paul was quick to express his frustration. “I don’t care what nobody says, I don’t care what she says; that’s terrible,” he said. “We try to get the ball out fast every time down the court.” The real controversy, however, started with his comment: “That’s ridiculous. If that’s the case, [this job] might not be for her.” Despite Paul and other Clippers’ players denying that their anger had to do with Holtkamp’s gender, it has raised a storm on social media.
Holtkamp is one of only two current full-time female referees for the National Basketball Association. Many have jumped in to defend Holtkamp in her unique position. But all Paul did was use the pronoun “her”––he did not say “women.” Paul attempted to clarify what he meant on Friday Feb. 6, frequently repeating that his anger “was about a bad call.”
There have been some individuals who have defended Paul’s intentions, including Clippers head coach Doc Rivers. “I don’t think he meant it in the way I think it’s being said,” Rivers said. “I just think he was upset at the technical. I don’t think the technical was warranted either, to be honest, but that’s not a gender issue.” For a first-year referee, Holtkamp has indeed been very sensitive when calling fouls.
National Basketball Players Association executive Michele Roberts expressed her belief that it was “utterly ridiculous, outrageous and patently false” to think Paul would be disrespectful toward women. “Anyone paying attention is aware that Chris [Paul] and his executive committee colleagues were instrumental in making me the first woman executive director of a major men’s professional sports union,” Roberts said in an issued statement. “Further, Chris and the committee were nothing but wholly supportive of my recent hire of Chrysa Chin—a woman—as the NBPA’s first ever executive vice president of strategy and development.”
In addition, the National Basketball Referees Association released a statement regarding Paul’s comments, saying that all he could really be accused of was being unprofessional. He wasn’t attacking women, but rather insulting Holtkamp’s ability to effectively referee. According to ESPN’s Marc Stein, Paul received a fine of $25,000 on Saturday Feb. 7 for his public criticism of Holtkamp. Like Roberts and the NBRA, the NBA did not believe the comments were due to any misogynistic attitudes from Paul.
All that’s left to do is to move on, and judging by Paul’s 25-point 13-assist performance during the Clippers’ win against the Dallas Mavericks on Monday Feb. 9, that is exactly what he intends to do.